1) With so many terrible things that happen in life, i.e. the Aurora shooting, how is it possible for victims of such tragedies to forgive and why should they?
Forgiving others may be one of the most difficult commands we are given to obey by Jesus Christ. With the horrors we see daily in the media, such as the recent shooting in Aurora, CO, the surviving victims are faced with painful decisions regarding forgiveness. Those who either will not or cannot claim the redemptive power of Jesus Christ to enable them to forgive the unthinkable are doomed to a life of despair, anger, and bitterness, which will ultimately destroy their joy, life purpose, and, most tragically, those they love. They will become prisoners to their offender and to their own destructive rage and desire for revenge, causing them to become victims once again. Those who decide to make the costly choice to obey Jesus Christ's command to forgive, face the painful truth that they must die to their own sense of justice and allow God to deal with those who have hurt them in His own way and in His own timing. Obedience to Jesus Christ, by forgiving their perpetrator, will allow them to walk free from the depression and an insatiable desire for revenge. They will be given the authority to minister to others out of their deepest pain, proving that our God is the Redeemer of all that touches our lives.
2) What are some specific grievances that most people have a difficult time forgiving?
Specific grievances that most people have a difficult time forgiving would include those life experiences in which some sense of deep betrayal has occurred such as: sexual abuse, adultery, extortion, acts of great deceit/hypocrisy, an unprovoked/unjust wounding, acts of jealousy or rage and murder, issues of abandonment by a parent, and long-standing family discord.
3) What do we gain by forgiving people who hurt us?
When we forgive people who hurt us, we gain the following invaluable spiritual insights which will serve us for a lifetime: * Granting forgiveness to others shows us our own need for mercy. * Forgiving others allows us to share in the privilege of suffering with Christ. * Forgiving others allows us to quiet the accusations from the enemy of our souls that we are not forgiven by Jesus Christ of our sins. * Forgiving others has the power to change our family legacy for generations.
I love mercy, when mercy is given to me! Being obedient to Christ by showing mercy to someone I do not believe deserves mercy is one of the greatest methods God uses to conform me into the image of His Son who died because of His mercy that I do not deserve in view of my own sin.
In Philippians 1:29, the apostle Paul shares this profound insight: "For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him." Forgiveness is a process that grants us the privilege of sharing in Christ's sufferings. Scripture tells me that a benefit of suffering is that I do not live the rest of my earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God (1 Peter 4:2). Forgiveness allows me to live within the will of God and receive His favor and blessing on my life because of my obedience to Him. Satan stands ever ready to accuse us of our sin - both confessed and unconfessed sin. When we forgive others, we take away Satan's power to convince us that we stand condemned before God ourselves. We can rebuke him and his lies with the blood of Jesus Christ and find peace and healing (1 John 3:18-21).
Perhaps the most profound benefit of forgiveness is its power to change our family legacy for generations. We may have come from a family line full of sins that have caused us great suffering. This generational sin threatens to infect our children and grandchildren. Forgiveness is a key component to breaking the chains of generational sin and beginning a godly heritage for generations that follow (Psalm 103:17-18).
4) What does forgiveness look like? Do we still remember grievances after we forgive?
Forgiveness is a complex issue and thus its appearance is complex as well. Many mistakenly believe that forgiveness and reconciliation are synonymous. Forgiveness requires just one person’s obedience; reconciliation takes two willing parties who desire healing and restoration in their relationship. Forgiveness is something that we can be empowered to give to another by the Holy Spirit, regardless of the actions of the one who hurt us.
Some falsely believe that the forgiveness process is not occurring because the name of the offender or the remembrance of the grievance brings pain. In my study of Scripture and forgiveness, I have found that there are many parallels between processing grief’s stages (denial, anger, depression, and acceptance) and the process of forgiveness. Often those that begin the journey of forgiveness become frustrated or give up because they are in denial, are angry or depressed and they feel that they are not making progress. We must push beyond these natural feelings so that we can move toward acceptance. Some rely too much on our feelings regarding forgiveness. We grieve over what has been lost in our relationships, but believing that forgiveness is merely an emotion absent of painful remembrance is not an indication that healing has not begun if a person commits to seeing his or her healing through to the end.
Forgiveness is the deliberate relinquishment of one’s right for vengeance. No human being is capable of completely forgetting what has happened to hurt him or her. A benchmark of healing is achieved when the wounded party is desirous more of peace than revenge. This can only happen if we commit ourselves to asking Jesus Christ to change our heart to bless those who have hurt us deeply instead of cursing them, which is our natural bent.
A person who is walking the path of forgiveness is one who continually takes the pain of remembrance captive and makes it bow in obedience to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). We must trust that God will reward us for our costly obedience and submission to His perfect justice in our situation.
5) If there is one stumbling block to forgiveness that you see most often what would it be?
The one stumbling block to forgiveness that I see most often is the false belief that if one forgives the offender, the wrong that was done is condoned. Never in Scripture does God condone our sin, but He will be faithful and just to forgive us of those sins we confess to Him and then to cleanse us from sin’s unrighteous stain (1 John 1:9).
Withholding forgiveness has the power to destroy us if we comfort ourselves with our bitterness toward our offender and refuse the healing God offers in His Word. Therefore, forgiveness does not condone what has been done against us, rather it opens the door for God to take control of the damaged relationship. Forgiving does not mean we are unwise in our vulnerability with someone who is not taking responsibility for his or her wrongdoing. The forgiveness we give to someone who has deeply wounded us may require healthy boundaries to be set in place so that the offender does not have access to wound us repeatedly. Forgiveness sets us free to be obedient to Christ’s command to forgive others so that we can participate fully in the abundant life He came to give us (John 10:10).